Towards Sustainable, Climate-Neutral Farming Systems (AgZero+)

Lead Research Organisation: UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Department Name: Biodiversity (Wallingford)

Abstract

Agriculture is a major cause of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, pollution and biodiversity loss globally and in the UK. Achieving sustainable ('green') growth of agricultural production to feed 10 billion people by 2050 whilst reducing environmental impacts is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Changing our diets and reducing food waste are part of the solution. However, as recognised in the UK government's Clean Growth Grand Challenge, significant green growth in the agri-food sector is also necessary to meet this demand without compromising other targets, in particular that of neutrality in carbon emissions by 2050. The GREEN AG programme will build a long-term, strategic research and innovation infrastructure to develop new UK farming systems which will produce sufficient food whilst reducing emissions and pollution, protecting biodiversity, and enhancing soil health. We call this 'net zero+' as it will balance net zero emissions aims with wider environmental concerns. These solutions will be required at scale if the UK is to meet emission reduction targets, and avoid the unintended consequences of emissions being offshored by increased food imports, or causing damage to valuable ecosystems in the UK.

GREEN AG will engage and unite the science community with industry, policy, farmer and NGO stakeholders. We will identify farm management practices with potential to reduce emissions and/or capture carbon without major impacts on food production or other environmental outcomes. We will undertake detailed, integrated measurements of these practices on both experiments and on a network of instrumented study farms (Living Farm Labs). We will use models to define pathways to achieving net zero+ arable and livestock farm systems that minimise trade-offs with production and the environment. Finally, we will use cutting edge data science to provide data, models and tools to enable the transition to net zero+ agriculture.

Achieving the ambition of clean, green and net-zero agriculture will require strategic, cross-disciplinary and long-term research - a so-called national capability. This will bring together directed teams from NERC and BBSRC centres - UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Rothamsted Research, National Centre for Earth Observation, British Geological Survey and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. This partnership will bring together complementary expertise in ground and earth observation, sensor networks, measurement of GHG emissions from soils, groundwater and estuaries, pollution, biodiversity, crop and livestock production, data science and modelling from field to national scales, covering terrestrial, freshwater and coastal zones. Our environmental research will complement work on other aspects of the farming system that might support net zero+, including crop breeding, animal husbandry and diet, soil science, and crop nutrition and protection.

The GREEN AG national capability will provide the following outcomes for the UK science community and other stakeholders:
- New knowledge underpinning effective agri-environmental policies to achieve net zero emissions by 2050;
- New funding opportunities levered from the GREEN AG research and innovation infrastructure which comprise a national digital farmland observatory, instrumented study farms, experiments, data and models;
- More effective implementation of net zero+ polices and practice through stakeholder engagement and co-design, and through the provision of new decision support tools;
- Opportunities for UK researchers and agri-businesses to export this green growth knowledge, technology and innovations to overseas markets.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description NCEO Rothamsted field work collaboration 
Organisation King's College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Working out the field work plan and bring equipment for the field work
Collaborator Contribution Providing the lab for us to store the equipment, maintain the status of the equipment and providing help during the field work.
Impact Just started this year, so no outcome yet.
Start Year 2023
 
Description UKCEH partnership with LEAF to become a LEAF Innovation Centre 
Organisation Linking Environment And Farming
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The AgZero+ programme will showcase cutting edge applied science to enable reduction of GHG emissions from agriculture and enhanced carbon capture
Collaborator Contribution LEAF will provide links to a large number of farming industry and food supply chain stakeholders
Impact None to date
Start Year 2023
 
Description AgZero+ and ASSIST meeting with Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact UKCEH met with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust at their Loddington research farm to discuss collaborative opportunities with the AgZero+ and ASSIST programmes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description AgZero+ meeting with Harper Adams University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact UKCEH presented te AgZero+ and ASSIST research programmes to the Environmental Sustainability Land & Soil Group and farm management team at Harper Adams University. Opportunitoes for collaboration were discussed, including a large-scale peatland re-wetting experiment on the research farm.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Attendance at the Oxford Real Farming conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Chatted informally with farmers about AgZero+ and in sessions, where relevant to promote the project and encourage engagement with the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description BeeCraft article about NHMS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Anna Oliver worked together with Stephen Fleming, co-editor of BeeCraft, to write a 3-page article about NHMS and the honey processing pipeline.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.bee-craft.com/
 
Description Calstock Wetlands and re-alignment project - Stakeholder Group meetiung 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A re-alignment exercise of the River Tamar at Calstock was performed during autumn-winter 2021, with creation of wetland from agricultural land with aim to provide flood protection, enhance biodiversity and create potential for carbon sequestration and mitigate against elevated nutrient load derived from catchment wide agriculture. This meeting was the first in a series to introduce and engage stakeholder groups in the project (Environment Agency, National Trust, South West Water, Tamar Valley AONB, Tamar Catchment Partnership, Westcountry Rivers Trust, and others) with PML staff presenting results from first 8 months of study to guide further activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.tamarvalley.org.uk/rivertamarwalkwayandwetlandproject/
 
Description Defra and UKCEH workshop on pesticides and the environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact "UKCEH and Defra held a joint workshop to discuss monitoring pesticides and modelling their impact on the environment to support the 25 Year Environment Plan indicator on chemicals - Exposure and adverse effects of chemicals on wildlife in the environment: interim H4 indicator:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exposure-and-adverse-effects-of-chemicals-on-wildlife-in-the-environment-interim-h4-indicator "
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Engagement of the AgZero+ programme with Unilever 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Following the Cereals 2022 Event, UKCEH had a meeitng with Unilever to discuss how to monitor and measure the impacts of farm management practices to reduce emissions and capture carbon. This considered by UK and overseas food production for Unilever products.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Engagement with Leeds University Farm for AgZero+ 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting to discuss how the AgZero+ programme could collaborate with Leeds University, specifically the Leeds University Farm platform and the BESTMAP EU project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Engagement with the Land App and Sainsburys to support sustainable livestock production 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact During 2022 and 2023 we have engaged with the Land App and Sainsbury's to provide digital tools to allow Sainsbury's livestock farmers produce beef in a more sustainable way. This has involved co-design of new capabilities in the Land App that incorporate environmental decisions support data sets from e-planner (developed in ASSIST and AgZero+).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://thelandapp.com/2023/03/01/sustainable_supply_chain_sainsburys/
 
Description Engagement with the agroecology research collaboration - attendance at workshop/conference and follow up discussions on joint working 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attendance at conference/workshop to discuss the Agroecology Research Collaboration aims and potential strategies for engaging with research organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/agroecology-research-collaboration/
 
Description Groundswell 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attended Groundswell- interviewed and talked to farmers about NetZero to gather data on practices being employed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Groundswell 2022 event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Attendance of the Groundswell 2022 regenerative agriculture event where we promoted the findings of the AgZero+ and ASSIST programmes to industry and policy stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.organicresearchcentre.com/news-events/events/groundswell-2022/
 
Description Integrated Pest Management Seminar for Asda Suppliers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation to ASDA supermarket growers and supply chain on new approaches to integrated pest management and the use of digital tools for monitoring and managing crop pests
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Integrating biodiversity into productive arable agricultural systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk to ECCB conference in Prague 23.8.2022 on Integrating biodiversity into productive arable agricultural systems
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.eccb2022.eu/en/symposia-sections-programme
 
Description Launch of Sainsbury's/LandApp/UKCEH collaborative project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation to ~60 Sainsbury's suppliers, covering introduction to E-Planner and how it can be integrated with other agricultural software (land app) and farm environmental planning
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Meeting with the AgZero+ Steering Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The year one findings and future plans of the AgZero+ programme were presented to the Programme Steering Group. There was a wide ranging discussion about how to maximise impact of the research and best to make the data, model and tools available to the academic community to enable them to lever additional funding from this National Capability investment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Met Office workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited attendee at Met Office workshop "UK agri-food system adaptation: Developing collaborative research opportunities to improve climate resilience of the UK agri-food system", 30 January 2023. Discussions around research gaps, current research and future opportunities for the agri-food sector
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Parliamentary Showcase Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The AgZero+ and ASSIST environmental Decision Support Tools (e-planner, e-surveyor) were demonstrated to the Environment Minister (Rebecca Powell) and cross party Peers and MPs at a UKCEH Parliamentary Showcase in November 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation to the Environment Minister Rebecca Powell MP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation and discussion of the environmental monitoring sensors and decisions support tools (eDST) developed in ASSIST and AgZero+. This included demonstration of the e-planner eDST, e-surveyor plant recrding mobile phone app and the Automated Biodiversity Monitoring station.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/defra-minister-visits-ukceh-may2022
 
Description Stand and lecture at British Beekeeping Show 2023 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jennifer Shelton displayed an NHMS stand at the British Beekeeping Show 2023 which presented results from 2019 and the workflow used to filter pollen grains from honey. In the afternoon, JS gave a talk titled "Behind the Scenes at NHMS" which detailed this workflow with photos of each stage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.britishbeekeepingshow.com/pages/2023-lectures-and-talks
 
Description Talk about NHMS to UK Environmental Observation Framework DNA working group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Jennifer Shelton gave a talk to the UKEOF DNA working group about the processing pipeline and 2019 results. Many researchers in the audience were interested in the potential of citizen science for eDNA projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Talk on National Honey Monitoring Scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on National Honey Monitoring Scheme to West Sussex Beekeepers' Association on the 18/1/2023
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Talk on National honey Monitoring Scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact "A talk on the National honey Monitoring Scheme at FESTIVAL DES POLLINISATEURS ET DES ABEILLES
DE GROIX (7-9/7/2022)"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://info.pollinis.org/festival-des-pollinisateurs-groix-2022/
 
Description Talk on National honey monitoring Scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on National honey monitoring Scheme to Essex Beekeepers' Association Annual Conference (13/11/2022)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Talk to Hampshire Beekeeping Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Jennifer Shelton gave a talk titled "Behind the Scenes at NHMS" to Hampshire Beekeeping Association, which was about the processing pipeline for honey samples. Beekeepers were interested in the science behind the scheme and understood the time and money involved in processing each honey sample.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://hampshirebeekeepers.org.uk/national-honey-monitoring-scheme/
 
Description The National Honey Monitoring Scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk to a regional bee keepers organization on the National honey Monitoring Scheme to the Inverness-shire Beekeepers Association 14/3/2023
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description UKCEH stand at the Cereals 2022 farming industry event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The AgZero+ and ASSIST environmental Decisions Support Tools (e-planner, e-surveyor) and the greenhouse gas flux towers were demonstrated to the farming industry and policy makers at the Cereals 2022 event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.nfuonline.com/updates-and-information/what-s-on-at-cereals-2022/
 
Description UKEOF symposium "Farmers, citizen science & environmental monitoring" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited speaker at UKEOF symposium "Farmers, citizen science & environmental monitoring", 13 January 2023. Presented E-Surveyor as case study of digital tools supporting farmer-led citizen science. No direct impacts as yet, but reached a wide audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.ukeof.org.uk/resources/citizen-science-resources/farmer-cs-symp
 
Description Workshop with Eftec and Strutt & Parker to discuss user requirements for environmental decision support tools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop with stakeholders Eftec and Strutt & Parker to discuss user requirements for environmental decision support tools. This will inform the design of the AgZero+ environmental decision support tools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Workshop with Wildflower Turf Ltd to discuss sustainable wildflower seed production 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop with Wildflower Turf Ltd to discuss sustainable wildflower seed production and creation of bespoke seed mixes to encourage beneficial insects onto farms
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Workshop with the AGRII Rhiza team 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A workshop was held between AGRII (largest UK agronomy company) and UKCEH to discuss the integration and use of ASSIST and AgZero+ environmental decision support tools into their farmer digital platform (Rhiza Contour).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description YouTube video titled "Behind the Scenes at NHMS" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A YouTube video, which is a recording of Jennifer Shelton's presentation "Behind the Scenes at NHMS", was uploaded to the UKCEH YouTube channel and sent out to NHMS participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0KzVEFn6y0